Monday, March 31, 2008

What Is Done In Our Name

The long running CBS television news magazine "60 Minutes" ran a segment last night on the 5-year "sale," arrest, interrogation, detention, and torture of Murat Kurnaz. The FBI, a shadowy U.S. intelligence agency, and German intelligence all concluded within a year that the poor boy knew nothing.

The whole thing had been a horrible mistake by the U.S. Department of Defense. Kevin Drum takes it from there:
[H]e wasn't released for several more years, and then only after the newly elected German chancellor made a personal appeal to George Bush. But why? Why didn't they release him earlier?

One can never rule out bureaucratic ineptitude, but the more likely explanation is that they were afraid he'd tell the world about his treatment. So they just kept him locked up instead.
Remember, George W. Bush and his administration is doing this in our name, we the people of the United States:

Guns, Guns, More Guns

This month, for the third year in a row, Republicans in the Florida legislature passed a bill making it a crime for an employer to prohibit employees from bringing guns to work. If only the bill passes the state senate, we can all rest easy; the workplace will become safe hunting ground for the 26.2 percent of all Americans 18 or older who "suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year."

That's a whopping 57.7 million adults. And it doesn't even take into account the 80 Americans who die every day from gun violence. We shouldn't really count them. They were shot dead. Some of them probably were even guilty of something.

The "Shoot Up The Workplace" bill is one of those genius proposals of Northwest Florida representative Durrell Peaden, among others. Peaden apparently sees no more pressing need for improving life in Florida than to make the workplace in America a free fire zone.

Makes perfect sense. After all, where else are you more likely to want to kill someone? A recent Gallup poll found 77% of all Americans hate their jobs. As the blog at My Two Cents reasonably points out --
[I]f you have a hammer, all your problems look like nails.
If you have a gun, all your problems look like targets.
The bill is opposed by business interests "who think an employers' private property rights should be deemed at least as sacred as their employees' right to come to work armed." So it seems, as one south Florida newspaper editorialized, the debate is being framed as a clash between a Second Amendment right to carry guns versus a Fifth Amendment private property right.

What we'd like to know is why has the gun-lover's lobby stopped at undermining the Fifth Amendment? What weenies! Why not undermine Article I, Section 4 by prohibiting polling places from banning voter guns? Or, the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, by requiring that jurors carry guns?

Or that granddaddy of them all, the First Amendment? Let's make it a crime for churches to ban guns in the nave, the chancel, the entire sanctuary. And, cover Sunday School, too, and church-sponsored preschools.

Arm 'em to the teeth! After all, if guns are banned, only nuns and atheist kids will have guns!

Alive and Well

Apparently, reports of Shirley Jackson's death are greatly exaggerated. The author of that memorable short story "The Lottery" is very much alive and running the Oregon state health care system.

The C Student

Tristero at Hullabaloo, absorbing Prof. Juan Cole's explanation for the confusing on-again -off-again- on-again Shiite vs. Shiite civil war in Iraq: This "is why you should never, ever, elect a president with a C+ average."

Or, he adds, "a president who has "senior moments" and scrambles the differences between Shiite and Sunni."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Indian Food Night

"The saintly persons get relief from all kinds of sins by partaking the food that has been first offered to gods as sacrifice. But those who prepare food for their selfish ends eat but only sins."
Remember Italian food night? Saintly Samantha from Toronto and her friend were at it again last night.

Best dinner party in all of Florida. Indian food night. And, they did it in the dark:

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Clerk's Tale

"[T]here are people of such disposition that, when they have taken a certain course, they cannot stop, but just as if they were bound to a stake, they will not slacken from that first purpose."
We happened to be visiting with a Pensacola court clerk for Escambia County's civil division yesterday. She mentioned another aspect of the mortgage crisis that hasn't received much, if any, attention locally.

Throughout the large office in which she was standing we could see stacks and stacks of unfiled manilla folders -- on the floor, on desk tops, leaning against the walls, piled precariously on chairs and on top of cabinets. We counted six of them four feet high or more and gave up after counting another seven smaller piles. Every one of them brought by mortgage lenders or whoever wound up at the bottom of the mortgage derivative "shitpile" as Atrios inelegantly, but accurately, puts it.

"Falling behind in the filing?" we asked.

The number of mortgage foreclosure cases being filed has "tripled the caseload in the last six months," she explained. "But because of the state budget cuts we're under a hiring freeze. We're doing the best we can."

Paul Krugman has a piece in today's New York Times assessing the policy proposal advanced by the three presidential candidates to address the mortgage crisis. It's the same crisis that's flooding our courts right now. Here's a short version of what each candidate proposes:
  • McCain: Do nothing. "Deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills."
  • Clinton: Rescue individual homeowners by creating "a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford."
  • Obama: "Broader financial regulation" of currently unregulated investment banks plus 'nudging' "private lenders into restructuring mortgages" rather than create (or recreate) a government agency to do it.
We're on Hillary's side in this one. Hoping for voluntary forbearance from mortgage lenders to help the national economy is as fruitless as saying "please don't" to a hungry grizzly bear. It's just not in their nature.

Like the Marquis in Chaucer's tale, "They will not slacken from that first purpose."

Find that Preposition - Quickly!

Quote of the Week:

"If you are part of Meals on Wheels and don’t have dentures to eat, one of the major things that happens to you is that you become malnourished."
-- Florida State Representative Joyce Cusack


Bad Timing

We wrote the other day about Florida blogger Bobby Cramer, also known as Mustang Bobby. Looks like he picked a bad week to have a car accident. The 29th Annual Mustang and All Ford Show starts this weekend in Pensacola.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Return to 'Normalcy'

It figures George W. Bush would model Warren G. Harding. Bush said today that things in Iraq are returning to type:
Speaking at a US Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, Mr Bush said "normalcy" was returning to Iraq.
The London Times describes what "normalcy" must mean to Bush:
Iraq’s Prime Minister was staring into the abyss today after his operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen.

With the threat of a civil war looming in the south, Nouri al-Maliki’s police chief in Basra narrowly escaped assassination in the crucial port city, while in Baghdad, the spokesman for the Iraqi side of the US military surge was kidnapped by gunmen and his house burnt to the ground.

Saboteurs also blew up one of Iraq's two main oil pipelines from Basra, cutting at least a third of the exports from the city which provides 80 per cent of government revenue, a clear sign that the militias — who siphon significant sums off the oil smuggling trade — would not stop at mere insurrection.

In Baghdad, thick black smoke hung over the city centre tonight and gunfire echoed across the city.

What's almost as bad from the White House viewpoint is that it's going to be a lot tougher for al-Maliki to spin this strife into gold. Mainly because, the AP is reporting, "gunmen kidnapped an Iraqi civilian spokesman for Baghdad security operations Thursday and killed three of his bodyguards after torching his house in a Mahdi Army stronghold in the capital."

It's kind of hard to say the surge is working when you're blindfolded and tied up in the trunk of a car. But normal, right?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tort Story

Florida playwright and novelist Bobby Cramer, who blogs at Bark Bark Woof Woof, apparently ran into "an elderly gentleman in a 2007 Infiniti" when the old man "made a left turn directly in front of me at an intersection." Bobby's okay. The elderly man is okay, too. But the Mustang is in critical condition.

Bobby writes:
Fortunately it happened in the middle of downtown Coral Gables and within five minutes there were three police cruisers and fire rescue on the scene.
That little detail brings to mind the story of a Yankee friend of ours who had a similar accident a few years ago. He was in New Orleans on business, driving a rental car.

Unfamiliar with the streets and signs, he suddenly found himself in the center of town, going the wrong way on a one-way street in heavy noontime traffic. Frantically looking all around, he tried to inch into the intersection so he could angle onto a two-way street, but in the process he "T-boned" another car -- in slow motion.

Our friend says he stopped immediately. Inexplicably, a large crowd gathered around both vehicles immediately. Our friend quickly exited his rental car and tried to make his way through the gaggle of gawkers to the other car, hoping to find the other driver wasn't hurt (he wasn't). As he pushed his way through the bystanders, one after another stopped him.

"I can get you a good lawyer," one fellow told him urgently.

"Me too, " said another. "I know where you can buy the best lawyer in town."

A third man grabbed our friend's elbow. "Hey, buddy," he said. "I can buy you a judge."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

4,000

BBC News: The number of United States military personnel killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion five years ago has passed the 4,000 mark.

UPDATE
3-24-pm

Tom Tomorrow:
"Regrets."

4,000

BBC News: The number of United States military personnel killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion five years ago has passed the 4,000 mark.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"So?"

Conservative, former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards, on why he "no longer" supports Dick Cheney, WaPo March 22:
Cheney told Raddatz that American war policy should not be affected by the views of the people. But that is precisely whose views should matter: It is the people who should decide whether the nation shall go to war. That is not a radical, or liberal, or unpatriotic idea. It is the very heart of America's constitutional system.
Do your descendants a favor and read the whole piece.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Jeff Miller's Mendacity - Masked Again

Wednesday, the U.S. Interior Department auctioned off 36 drilling tracts in the Gulf of Mexico, including the controversial Eastern Gulf area 125 miles offshore from Pensacola now designated "Lease Sale 224." As the International Tribune reports --
In a first-ever lease sale in an area of the eastern Gulf opened to drilling by Congress in 2006, the bidding was tame. * * * MMS [Mineral Management Services] had expected a lower $50 million ... in winning bids in that area, which, to this stage, has not been subjected to seismic studies.
Senators and congressmen are home for the holidays, hoping to kiss up to the voters. So Florida's two U.S. senators, Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, are loudly claiming credit for keeping the rigs away from Florida's shores. That's okay with us. A hundred and twenty-five miles south of Pensacola Beach is better than the alternative the Bush administration was pushing.

But credit for Northwest Florida's congressman, Jeff Miller, too? Impossible! you say. After all, wasn't it Miller who voted "to pour oil all over our beaches," as Bryan over at Why Now? reported at the time?

Yes, it was.

And wasn't it Miller who deceptively claimed that allowing rigs in the near shore off Pensacola Beach was the only way to "save" Florida's beaches?

Yes, again.

And wasn't Miller identified by multiple news reports as "undercutting fellow Florida congressmen and senators of both parties" by voting for a proposal that would have allowed oil and gas drilling within 50 miles of Pensacola Beach?

Yes to that, too.

So, imagine our surprise when we opened the front page of today's Pensacola News Journal and our eyes fell on the report from a Gannett D.C Bureau reporter, Eun Kyung Kim, suggesting that Miller is trying to claim credit for the very Senate bill he fiercely opposed! "Miller," writes Kim with absolutely no idea what he's talking about, "has long maintained that such activity cannot be less than 100 miles from shore, nor can it violate the area the Defense Department uses for its military weapons testing."

What can possibly account for such irresponsible, bogus reporting? Sloth, ignorance, or a deep-seated bias. There aren't many other explanations.

Even the one quote Kim managed to snag doesn't support his own report. Miller is "not going to oppose the sale of this. It's not something that conflicts with his position on the issue," a Miller aide said lied.

Gee, who knew that a D.C. Bureau newspaper reporter is supposed to swallow whole everything a politician's P.R. spokesman says?

If there was any question about it, now it's certain that Gannett's D.C. Bureau is an unreliable source for reporting on the actual position and performance of Florida congressmen. But that only raises another question: Why would Pensacola News Journal editors let Kim's spurious report slip by them?

We aren't sure, but to the above short list of possible explanations we'll have to add "newsroom budget cuts." From what we can tell, Gannett has been starving the News Journal of talent for a long, long time. The local paper well may be so malnourished by now that you could serve them stenography and call it journalism.

In fact, someone just did.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Remarkable Letter

Now that the cranks can post comments directly to message boards and even blogs like this one (ever so rarely, thank goodness!) the way has been cleared for really good letters to the editor. Via Atrios, this one to the New York Times ranks among the best:
Surely it must have been a slip for Maureen Dowd to align the artistry of my late husband, Gene Kelly, with the president’s clumsy performances. To suggest that “George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly” represents not only an implausible transformation but a considerable slight. If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.

You really have to read the rest of it. It's suitable for framing.

Sex Thought for the Day

Hendrick Hertzberg in The New Yorker: Bill Clinton's "participation in his wife’s Presidential campaign has done far more damage to his reputation than his adulteries ever did."

Irrational Opinions: Then and Now

Then: Nicholas Kristoff: A 1990 survey found 30 percent of African-Americans believe "that the AIDS virus was released as a deliberate government plot to kill black people."

Now: CNN: "Just 31 percent of Americans approve of how President Bush is handling his job, according to a poll released Wednesday" on the 5th anniversary of Iraq War.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Political Theater Exam

Scott Horton draws a compelling metaphor to describe the over-arching importance of Barack Obama's speech yesterday:
Most of us live plodding lives, walking down well-worn tracks, often filled with cynicism and disdain for the world around us. And appropriately enough, we usually reserve the strongest cynicism for the world of politics, which in most societies quickly emerges as a theater for the ridiculous and the grotesque. But the sublime also crosses this stage, however fleetingly, and it is a test for each of us and for the society that we constitute: can we recognize it when it appears?
* * *
Barack Obama’s speech was about his pastor, but it was also about religion, religious sentiment, and its proper role in a democratic society. His speech was the polar opposite of the one that Mitt Romney delivered a few months back, starting with the political calculus behind it. Obama’s speech was bold, daring, a willingness to speak unpleasant truths that many in his audience will not want to hear. This may not be the formula for a successful political campaign—that question is to some extent a test for the maturity of the voters. But it is a demonstration of moral integrity and indeed of greatness.
As always, it will reward you many times over to read Scott Horton's entire post.

No Newspaper for Old Fashioned Morality

Last Sunday, the New York Times marked in print the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War by publishing nine essays written by Beltway insiders, Bush administration apologists, and disreputable jingoists, almost every one of whom either got it flat wrong at the outset of the war or who are, themselves, war criminals.

Yesterday, readers responded the old fashioned way -- with letters to the (anonymous, always anonymous) NYT editor who issued the invitations to such a disreputable group of pertinacious miscreants. Every one of them echoes the sentiments of Times reader Edwin M. Walker:
You enabled the Iraq war with your cheerleading reportage, and you continue to provide a forum for its blinkered defenders, Richard Perle, Frederick Kagan, Danielle Pletka, Kenneth M. Pollack and L. Paul Bremer III.

They were wrong at the beginning, and continue to be wrong. They hide their defective judgment behind excuses that someone stabbed them in the back, or that they were in good company in their disproven beliefs, and argue that we should forget about their history of failure and take their advice now.

They are an insult to public discourse, but you continue to enable them.

As Prof. David Bromwich put the question two days ago in a thoroughly devastating take-down of the Times' execrable coverage, "Can no quantity of errant judgments and measurable wrongs to the country remove a person from the establishment list?"

The evident answer is "no." For proof, read yesterday's Reuters report about three State Department diplomats who in 2003 "abruptly ended prestigious careers and gained international attention by noisily resigning in protest over the U.S. war in Iraq."

What's happened to them? Take a glance:
Now a resident of Athens, Greece, [John Brady] Kiesling and two others that followed him in resigning, John Brown and Mary Ann Wright, said leaving their diplomatic careers had been hard.

"I've had to tighten my belt," said Brown, 59, who served in London as well as Moscow, Prague and Belgrade. "I have to be very careful about my budget."

Wright, 61, who helped reestablish the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2001, has become active in the anti-war movement. She relies on the hospitality of others as she travels to rallies and events.

Kiesling says he lives in a modest one-bedroom apartment and relies on a bicycle and walking to get around.
Still, they have no regrets.
"The decision I took was the best decision I've ever made in my life," said ...Kiesling, 50, who had served as a a political officer in Greece, Armenia and Morocco.
* * *
"Our gesture earned us a brief moment in the media and the cautious respect of our colleagues. Five years later, we do not regret our decision to leave the profession we loved."
Plainly, someone at the New York Times hasn't learned a thing in the last five years. In the country of the New York Times, demonstrated incompetence and minds that have proven themselves to be so dull, poisoned, or undependable as to reach all the wrong judgments on the weighty issue of going to war, are worthy of editorial space. Those with competence and high principles are not.

Little wonder the dead tree press is in trouble. It not only admires but enables exactly the wrong sort of person.

Melancholy Anniversary

Fifth Year Iraq War Timeline, March 19, 2003-March 19, 2008.

Juan Cole comments:
Bush's five big lies about Iraq powerfully shaped press coverage of the war and have kept the mess there going at least long enough to turn it over to the next president. As he campaigns for the White House, John McCain, Bush's heir apparent in the Iraq propaganda department, has been signaling that "complete victory" in Iraq will be his talking point of choice for Year 6. If the mainstream media and the American public don't wake up to the truth about how the war has gone, they'll find themselves buying into an even longer and deeper tragedy.
Sixth Year Iraq War Anniversary, March 19, 2009, by Tom Englehardt:
On March 19, 2009, the date of the sixth anniversary of President Bush's invasion of Iraq, as surely as the sun rises in the East I'll be sitting here and we will still have many tens of thousands of troops, a string of major bases, and massive air power in that country. In the intervening year, more Americans will have been wounded or killed; many more Iraqis will have been wounded or killed; more chaos and conflict will have ensued; many more bombs will have been dropped and missiles launched; many more suicide bombs will have gone off. Iraq will still be a hell on Earth.

Obama's Speech

Andrew Sullivan:
[T]his searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime. It is a speech we have all been waiting for for a generation. Its ability to embrace both the legitimate fears and resentments of whites and the understandable anger and dashed hopes of many blacks was, in my view, unique in recent American history.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fed to the Rescue

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Richard Fuld said the Federal Reserve's move to provide funding to brokers should alleviate investor concern that Wall Street firms may face cash shortages.
Now, the banks and brokerage houses can buy one another with loans from the Fed and pledge worthless paper no one else wants as collateral -- while grossly overpaid board chairmen play card games and golf. Sweet deal, even if means a liquidity trap for consumers.

Now, when do you suppose the Fed will help the victims of those stock brokers and bankers?

Bear, Sterns und Drang

File this in the Annals of Capitalism:
In a highly unusual maneuver, Fed officials said they would secure the loan by effectively taking over the huge Bear Stearns portfolio and exercising control over all major decisions in order to minimize the central bank’s own risk.
Gretchen Morgenson asks, "What are the consequences of a world in which regulators rescue even the financial institutions whose recklessness and greed helped create the titanic credit mess we are in?"

Congenital bear Bill Fleckenstein answers, "We are Bailout Nation.”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Summing Up

From Josef Joffe (editor of a "German weekly that's sympathetic to the United States") via McClatchy News Service:
"From a coldly realist perspective, Iraq was the wrong war against the wrong foe at the wrong time."
And, even WaPo adds, for the wrong reason.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pensacola Paparazzi

WPMI-TV (Channel 15) in nearby Mobile reached new heights of hilarity in bad journalism late this week when its Pensacola reporter, Jenna Suskow, and a cameraman were egged at the home occupied by manslaughter defendant Jamal Lee and his family. The incident raises the age-old question: Who crossed the line first, the news chick or the bad egg?

The answer is there are no good guys in this story. Lee is a juvenile facing charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. His restrictive release pending trial on $100,000 bail plus an ankle monitoring device has been feeding all kinds of uninformed nonsense from the press and public.

Suskow is just another wrinkle-free face with pretensions to being a real journalist. The television station she works for is in a race to the bottom with other local stations to see who can salt their news broadcasts with the most blood and sex. She was accompanied by a cameraman with the aptronym of Cameron Brock.

Even prosecutor David Rimmer is appalled by the TV crew's behavior. Yesterday he told the Pensacola News Journal, "In all fairness, they're pounding and knocking on his door," Rimmer said. "You know how it is when the paparazzi's after you, when you're a celebrity."

Suskow wasn't only "pounding and knocking" on the door, as the video first broadcast on WPMI-TV shows. She also was tramping across the lawn with a long black instrument in hand, peering into the front window in the dark of night, and shining a strong light so she could peek into the house. That's the very sort of behavior that gets corpses featured on the evening news.

We take second seat to no one when it comes to condemning the wretched state of television news in this corner of the Gulf Coast. However bad it becomes, though, it shouldn't be a capital offense. Someone needs to advise Suskow and her paparazzi pals at the other local TV stations that this kind of reporting not only is abominable, but under Florida's "shoot first" law it could become fatal.

video

Friday, March 14, 2008

Falling Behind

You know you've fallen way behind the rapidly degenerating culture of ours when you run across a statement like this and it leaves you completely baffled:
"When a lot of people think of anime, they automatically think of 'Dragon Ball Z' or 'Dragon Ball.'

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Casa di Augusto

He lived at first near the Forum Romanum...; afterwards, on the Palatine, but in the no less modest dwelling of Hortensius, which was remarkable neither for size nor elegance, having but short colonnades with columns of Alban stone, and rooms without any marble decorations or handsome pavements. For more than forty years too he used the same bedroom in winter and summer... . If ever he planned to do anything in private or without interruption, he had a retired place at the top of the house, which he called "Syracuse"and "technyphion [trans. 'my little workshop']."
-- Suetonius (71 -135 A.C.D.), The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Four rooms in an ancient house on the Palatine Hill, believed to have belonged to Imperator Caesar Augustus (
63 BC - 14 AD) for forty years -- before as well as after he became the first emperor of Rome -- opened to the public for the first time this week. The house of Octavian, as he was first known, is in an area of Palatine Hill never before opened to the public, according to the London Daily Mail.

In an otherwise direct and informative description of the site, the Daily Mail takes a brief but predictably titillating detour about the uses to which Octavian might have put the restored bedroom -- oddly, drawing on the fictional HBO series "Rome." We mention it here only because it may satisfy those readers who come here looking for salacious news about the private antics of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned today:
Octavian, played by Max Pirkis in the hit BBC sex and violence historical epic Rome, lived in the house on the Palatine hill overlooking the Forum in around 30BC and moved there shortly after marrying Livia.

In the BBC series, he confessed to Livia that being slapped by her during sex "greatly arouse my pleasure" and he in turn would whip and beat her, while in another episode Octavian is seen beating his mother Atia senseless with a water jug.

As the London Times explains, Octavian's house was once assumed to have been destroyed after he moved up the hill. Archaeologist Gianfilippo Carrettoni first discovered the ruins in the 1960s. According to the European internet travel service Opodo:
Some decorations on the walls and ceilings of the building were found intact, while others have been reconstructed from fragments. Rooms in the house have been restored, including the Room of the Pines, where the walls are painted to represent yellow columns.
The Guardian has a few photos. Monsters and Critics has more.

The BBC earlier this week covered the whole of the site and a little bit more of Palatine Hill and the nearby Roman forum. Take a look:


video

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Admiral Sinks - Rumors of Cheney's War Soar

This is very disquieting news:
Adm. William J. Fallon, the top American commander in the Middle East whose views on Iran and other issues have seemed to put him at odds with the Bush administration, is retiring early, the Pentagon said Tuesday afternoon.
Digby suggests he was either fired or resigned in protest. The clear implication is this is over Fallon's opposition to Dick Cheney's war plans against Iran. By coincidence (or is it, really?) Cheney is about to embark on a tour of Middle East allies.

Spitzer the Spoiler

Is the imminent resignation of Eliot Spitzer good news or bad news for Brooke A. Masters? Well, "The Rise of Eliot Spitzer" has been in the remainder bins for some months now, so maybe neither. But as for a sequel, a Volume II perhaps? Hmmm. Whatever could be its title?

What Were the Spitzers Thinking?

Many are remarking about Eliot Spitzer's extraordinarily brief and uninformative press conference yesterday, after it became known wiretaps had exposed him as a customer of an international prostitution ring. The presser amounted to little more than a 45-second photo-op, a chance for the New York governor to hold hands with his wife in public and announce his vacation plans.

Wouldn't you like to know what they were really thinking during that excruciating stage show? Well, now it can be told. The U.S. Justice Department, relying on super-secret spying technologies which the White House assures us do not require a judicial warrant, has now publicly released a transcript of the couple's thoughts as they left yesterday's press conference:

Truly, men are from Mars.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New York's Next Governor

Because of this it looks like David Paterson will be the next governor of New York. In a matter of days, if not hours.

Now, if only David Vitter had an equal capacity for shame, maybe the rest of the pols would wise up. No chance of that, is there?

Your Mid-Term John McCain Exam

Voters, open your laptops. This week the New Yorker has a multiple choice interactive quiz, "Senator Hothead," by Paul Slansky. We'll be grading it on this scale:

CORRECT ANSWERS
15-13 - A - You're a credit to democracy!
12-10 - B - Good effort, but you might have studied harder.
9-7 - C - Unless you mend your ways, you're likely to become a Republican.
6-4 - D -
What? You get your news from Fox TV?
3-0 - F - Are you by any chance using John McCain's brain?
Your Next Homework Assignment:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bush Endorses Torture

Saturday, George W. Bush made history, of sort. He joined the ranks of Torquemada and a select few other political leaders in mankind's history by explicitly endorsing torture as a governing national policy for the Spanish Inquisition C.I.A.

It's his "legacy," says the New York Times. It's "the very talisman of his unchecked rule and his arrogant indifference to the rule of law," says Scott Horton.

No doubt most of the Sunday talking heads will offer Oh-So-Serious chatter about why waterboarding is not torture; or, even if it is, why it's okay as long as we are the torturers. Save yourself the time. Here's a send-up of the Beltway insanity that passes for Serious commentary these days, courtesy of The Onion:

video

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Friday, March 07, 2008

Reconsidering the Democratic Campaign

Hillary Clinton has totally pissed off half the Democrats in American by seemingly campaigning for John McCain. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's chief foreign policy advisor resigned today after calling Mrs. Clinton a "monster." And another of his advisors says neither Hillary nor Obama is "ready to have that 3 am phone call." Do you happen to have another resignation form handy?

Says a Kos contributor, "The only one happy" about all of this "is John McCain." What we say is, it's time to reconsider this idea from a month ago:
He foresaw global warming. He "took the initiative" on the Internet. And he knew exactly how Iraq would turn out. Who's to say that Al Gore hasn't known all along that the Democratic race would descend into some weird state of gridlock--and that only he, the Goracle, could rescue the party from civil war?
As a Pennsylvania blogger points out, that's what "super-delegates" are for.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In Iraq 'Indefinitely'

WaPo's Karen DeYoung today covers the important and revealing constitutional crisis brewing between the White House and Congress over incipient "security" treaties being discussed by the U.S. and Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq. The treaties, so the White House contends, are needed because the mandate for having foreign troops in Iraq will expire at year's end.

The article appears in the 'Reality Section' of the Post, which is to say deep in the interior between pages A-14 and A-19, where the truth usually is buried.

The Bush administration yesterday advanced a new argument for why it does not require congressional approval to strike a long-term security agreement with Iraq, stating that Congress had already endorsed such an initiative through its 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The 2002 measure, along with the congressional resolution passed one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States," permits indefinite combat operations in Iraq, according to a statement by the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

The statement came in response to lawmakers' demands that the administration submit to Congress for approval any agreement with Iraq. U.S. officials are traveling to Baghdad this week with drafts of two documents -- a status-of-forces agreement and a separate "strategic framework" -- that they expect to sign with the Iraqi government by the end of July. It is to go into effect when the current U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

The Bush administration says Congress shouldn't worry. Mr. Bush really isn't "trying to lock in a U.S. military presence in Iraq before the next president takes office." He just wants "combat operations" to continue 'indefinitely.'

Florida Education Evolves

The New York Times, March 6:
Has Florida come to its senses over the teaching of evolution? Sound science appears to be winning the latest round, but the struggle isn’t over.
* * *
Some anti-evolutionists are now pushing Florida’s Legislature to step in and allow the teaching of alternative explanations of biological origins. The alternatives that they have in mind would almost certainly not be deemed “scientific” and would have no legitimate place in science classes.

If the standards are strictly followed, Florida may finally be on the way toward improving the quality of its science curriculum and the subpar performance of its students in national assessments.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Baseball on Steroids

You can get all the primary news you want here, or just about anywhere else on the pipes. We're spending the day contemplating Abraham Socher's captivating Commentary Magazine article titled "No Game For Old Men," courtesy of Al Yellon's dad over at Bleed Cubbie Blue.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Did You Pick the Wrong Week?

Did you pick the wrong week to pay off that mortgage?

Gaza Q and A

Question:
[S]ays an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’
Answer: Why, George W. Bush did it.

Question: So, what happened next?

Answer:
Long story short: the US government decides to bolster Fatah by sending them a bunch of arms. Word of these shipments leaks to a Jordanian newspaper. All hell breaks loose, Hamas and Fatah start a civil war. Hamas wins the war and proceeds to use the American-supplied arms it confiscated from Hamas Fatah against Israel.
Question: How could such a thing happen?

Answer:
“You know,” says [Khalid Jaberi, a commander with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades], “since the takeover, we’ve been trying to enter the brains of Bush and Rice, to figure out their mentality. We can only conclude that having Hamas in control serves their overall strategy, because their policy was so crazy otherwise.

The 20 Percent Solution

Following on this from yesterday, Robert Reich has published a second post, "Are We Heading For Another Great Depression (Part Two)." He thinks "the chances of a Depression are no higher (and not much lower) than twenty percent."

"Why not higher?" he asks. Mostly, he suggests, because the people in charge are smarter than they used to be.
[O]ur monetary authorities know how and when to pump more money into the economy; our Congress and White House know how and when to stimulate with fiscal policy; and the US economy is more integrated with the rest of the world... .
Poppycock. We may well avoid a depression, even a Great one, but it won't be because authorities are smarter than they used to be. As George Orwell famously observed in a 1945 essay, "Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Great Depression?

Professor Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, runs a blog called, appropriately enough, "Robert Reich's Blog." There, yesterday he asked the question "Are We Heading for Another Great Depression?"

Prof. Reich gives two answers. One of them is brief and maddeningly unexplained: "Probably not," he says.

The other answer is an extensive quote from Marriner S. Eccles' memoir, "Beckoning Frontiers and Personal Recollections." Eccles was FED Chairman -- in effect, a professional forebear of Ben Bernanke -- for more than a decade during the Roosevelt administration.

As Prof. Reich notes with admirable candor, there are "eerie similarities" between the causes of the Great Depression identified by Eccles and the credit crisis we see unfolding today. The trigger for both was the increasing trend of maldistribution of wealth that preceded a credit crunch. Think the Bush tax cuts, for example:
[A] giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.
* * *
The time came when there were no more poker chips to be loaned on credit. Debtors thereupon were forced to curtail their consumption in an effort to create a margin that could be applied to the reduction of outstanding debts. This naturally reduced the demand for goods of all kinds and brought on what seemed to be overproduction, but was in reality underconsumption when judged in terms of the real world instead of the money world. This, in turn, brought about a fall in prices and employment.

Unemployment further decreased the consumption of goods, which further increased unemployment, thus closing the circle in a continuing decline of prices. Earnings began to disappear, requiring economies of all kinds in the wages, salaries, and time of those employed. And thus again the vicious circle of deflation was closed until one third of the entire working population was unemployed, with our national income reduced by fifty per cent, and with the aggregate debt burden greater than ever before, not in dollars, but measured by current values and income that represented the ability to pay.
To judge from the comments section, Reich's readers are not happy with his glib "probably not" answer. But what's a former cabinet officer to do?

He couldn't very well say "Hmmm. Sure looks like it to me." Just as with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, the moment an informed observer -- say, an economist like Robert Reich -- predicts, "The Great Depression Is Coming, The Great Depression is Coming," it has "profound implications" on the future itself.

Bernanke knows this, too. That's assuredly why, as the Cunning Realist points out today, he has been so spectacularly wrong in so many of his public predictions about the future of the economy.

Or, as The Big Picture boldly puts it, "If the Fed were to come clean about the present circumstances, it would cause a market panic." The observers, don'cha know, are lying just to protect us.

Keep that in mind every time you read or hear what they have to say.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Jim Paul: 'Champion of Travel'

Intrepid investigative journalist Michael Stewart reports in today's Pensacola News Journal that disgraced school superintendent Jim Paul has been racking up more out-of-state conference trips -- and expenses -- than any other school chief in Northwest Florida. In fact, "Paul spent more money on travel than the five other superintendents combined."
Since January of last year, Escambia County School Superintendent Jim Paul has spent 66 days away from work attending 17 professional conferences — an average of one trip every three weeks.
* * *
[A]n examination of Paul's travel records last year compared to members of the Escambia School Board and five other Florida school superintendents shows he is the champion of travel.
Paul's defense seems to be that Pensacola is such a backwater burg, who wouldn't want to escape it for a little lobbying action elsewhere? He told the News Journal, "We live in Pensacola on the edge of Alabama. Nobody comes here."

Tell that to the tourist bureau.

This latest bamboozle is about as convincing as the excuses Jim Paul put on offer after being arrested on drunk driving charges. Especially when you notice that so many of the cities he 'conferenced' at -- Boston, Las Vegas, Tampa, and New Orleans, among others -- happen to be within easy driving distance of gambling casinos.

On the other hand, maybe he just needs a lot of parking lot naps.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

An E.B. White Moment

The late E.B. White, long-time editor of The New Yorker, used to have fun in the margins with bad newspaper headlines and other gaffes. We feel sure this one about Timothy Goeglein's resignation, following his exposure as a serial plagiarist, would have been titled "Words of One Syllable Dept."

Link to original
(as long as it lasts)